When it comes to our own health, it’s kind of like driving a car – you might ignore some of the minor creaks and groans, but at some point you have to bring it into the garage for a checkup. The same goes for health symptoms – while you may have minor illnesses here and there, sometimes a visit to the doctor’s office is in order.
But how do you know when you should walk it off, or book an appointment with a medical professional? Well, usually it’s because you’re suddenly dealing with something that wasn’t there a couple of days before, and in some cases it can be serious. Here are eight health symptoms you shouldn’t try to ignore…
1. Chest Pain
In some cases it may just be gas, but if you’re experiencing “extreme discomfort” that feels like there’s weight on your chest, then you should be concerned. UC San Diego Health explains you should be even more concerned if the pain if accompanied by other symptoms such as pain radiating down your arm, or nausea/vomiting.
You actually might be having a heart attack, definitely not something you can let pass as it’s life threatening. Another possible cause is acid reflux, which isn’t overly serious, but you should probably let a doctor make that call.
2. Sudden Headaches
The AARP says if you’re suddenly experiencing a headache “unlike any you’ve had before,” then you should call emergency services or get someone to take you to the hospital. You may be suffering a brain aneurysm, which can often be fatal.
There are other conditions that can cause a sudden intense headache, such as meningitis and temporal arteritis (which can actually lead to vision loss), notes the source. Shingles may also be the culprit. The “good” news is that it probably isn’t a brain tumor, which actually starts as a dull headache and builds over weeks or months, it adds.
3. Unexplained Weight Loss
Suddenly dropping pounds without dieting or changing your lifestyle is no reason to celebrate – in fact, it could point to a serious health problem, explains Prevention.com.
The source says you should see a doctor if you lose 5-percent of your weight within 6 to 12-months without trying (especially if you’re an older adult). For example, if your weight normally hovers around 160-pounds and you lose 8-pounds without explanation in a short time period, you could be dealing with something big – like cancer, Parkinson’s disease, dementia or diabetes. It can also be hyperthyroidism, which is an overactive thyroid gland that causes your body to burn through more energy, or it could even be a symptom of depression.
4. Shortness of Breath
If you’re struggling to catch your breath after climbing a set of stairs, you may have a medical problem – unless you live in high altitudes or you’ve just completed a strenuous workout, explains the Mayo Clinic.
If you’re not usually one to struggle to regain your breath after light activity, then a visit to the doctor is in order. You might be dealing with something like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, or even a blood clot in the lung, notes the clinic. It may also be bronchitis or asthma, which also require medical treatment.
5. Unusual Bleeding
UC San Diego Health explains that bloody stool can point to ulcers or even colon cancer – or you may also just have hemorrhoids, which are unpleasant but not life threatening. Bloody urine could be bladder or kidney infections, while lung or esophageal cancers can cause blood in your vomit, it adds.
Meanwhile, if you’re coughing up blood, it could be a condition such as tuberculosis, bronchitis or pneumonia, adds the source. These are all reasons to visit your doctor pronto.
6. Swollen Legs
While a variety of health problems can cause swelling in your lower extremities, this is definitely not a symptom you can walk off, according to Healthline.com. A swollen ankle or leg (that’s not the result of an obvious injury) can be traced to heart failure, kidney failure, or liver failure, adds the source.
Other (still potentially alarming) causes include being overweight, or having rheumatoid arthritis, leg infections, lymphedema (a blockage in the lymphatic system). It can also be a reaction to certain medications, or mild edema from pregnancy or consuming too much salt.
7. Weakness or Fainting
If you’re suddenly unsteady on your feet or feel like you’re going to pass out, then that’s obviously reason for concern. Rush University Medical Center in Chicago says if it comes out of nowhere, it could be a sign you’re having a stroke (especially if it’s weakness in a particular limb or facial muscle). This is considered a medical emergency.
Meanwhile, “ongoing” dizziness or multiple fainting episodes point to infections, allergies, as well as heart or neurological conditions, adds the source. “Such symptoms warrant a trip to your doctor,” it adds.
8. Persistent Fever
If you have a fever that doesn’t seem to want to break, or it’s unusually high, then call your doctor (if your temperature is above 103-fahrenheit, or you’ve had the fever for more than 3-days) says the Mayo Clinic.
“Persistent fever can signal a hidden infection, which could be anything from a urinary tract infection to tuberculosis,” it adds. In some cases, a prolonged fever can be a side effect of some medications, and in worst-case scenarios, it can point to cancer (such as lymphomas), warns the source.